USAF Likes B.C. LEDs

Friday, December 12, 2003

A small Victoria-based company is lighting the way for U.S. forces and its allies, including Canada, in Afghanistan.

Carmanah Technologies has supplied its technology-leading solar-powered LED (light-emitting diode) lighting system to the U.S. army for the strategic Bagram airbase north of the capital Kabul.

The contract for the 520 lights was worth $266,000 and is a remarkable success story for a firm fast becoming a favourite supplier to the U.S. military.

The lights are used for runway edge, threshold lighting, obstruction, taxiway, apron and construction lighting. They help guide C-130 transports, fighter jets and helicopters.

Pilots like them for safety reasons because the LED light source allows them to fly with night-vision goggles for better vision overall. Conventional incandescent lights created a "blooming" or blinding effect inside the NVGs.

Long been involved in marine lighting, Carmanah recently branched out into the aviation sector, David Davies, director of communications for the company said in an interview yesterday.

The company has already sold lights worth $1.6 million to the U.S. military this year and has just signed a $1.6-million contract with the London transport authorities to provide lighting systems for 300 bus shelters in the U.K.

Art Aylesworth, Carmanah's CEO anticipates more business coming the public company's way. "New orders are coming in as more military engineers, ground crews and pilots experience first hand the safety and cost advantages of our technology," he said.

The self-contained, solar-powered lights require no external electrical inputs or wiring. They can be quickly and easily installed as a permanent, temporary or expedited airfield-lighting system that will operate maintenance-free for up to five years.

An added bonus is that they are very economic, offering up to 90-per-cent cost savings over conventionally powered lights.

The technology's secret is a patented micro-power system inside the lights that allows them to be used virtually worldwide. They have been successfully tested as far north as Alaska. Vancouver International Airport is also testing them, says Davies.